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First 2012 Olympic selections made

Issue date

The first members of an expected 200-strong New Zealand Olympic Team were named today.

Sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke (49er), Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie (women’s 470), Andrew Murdoch (laser), Jon Paul Tobin (RS:X), Paul Snow Hansen and Jason Saunders (men’s 470), Stephanie Hazard, Jenna Hansen and Susannah Pyatt (women’s match racing) and Sara Winther (laser radial) were confirmed to the New Zealand Olympic team by New Zealand Olympic Committee Selectors, headed by Secretary General Kereyn Smith.

The athletes’ nomination and selection followed robust performances at the recently concluded Sailing World Championships in Perth. The World Championship returned one silver and two bronze medals for New Zealand.

Kereyn Smith said the twelve athletes named today will represent New Zealand proudly next year. “We’re delighted to name the first members of an exciting and high performing Olympic Team. We’re expecting our 100th Olympic medal at London 2012 and are confident our sailors will contribute to this.”

Olympic Scholarship holders Blair Tuke and Peter Burling (49er) won silver at Perth on the back of a bronze win earlier this year at the Olympic Test event. The duo was delighted to be named to the team.

“We’re really growing in confidence and moving steadily up the results table,” said Tuke, heading for his first Olympic Games. “Being named to the Olympic team is a huge boost and we’re focused on an even better performance at London next year. “

Burling represented New Zealand in Beijing where he finished eleventh in the 470 class. “The Olympic Games are an opportunity to once again represent my country with pride.”

The athletes were selected following nomination to the New Zealand Olympic Committee by Yachting New Zealand. New Zealand Olympic Committee selectors confirmed the athletes had met the mutually agreed selection criteria.

“Some of the spots were particularly hard fought and we know today’s announcement will be particularly disappointing for some,” said Smith. “It’s a reflection of depth of talent within sailing right now. The selection process is robust and results-driven.”

Yachting New Zealand Olympic Director Jez Fanstone says the athletes make up a young team with strong podium potential.

“The athletes named today are the in-form athletes who have performed at the 2011 ISAF worlds and who are on track to perform at London 2012,” he said.
“Our goal is to learn the lessons from these worlds, to continue improving and to be back on the podium in 2012. Today’s announcement is a celebration of a successful World Championship and a successful year for the NZL sailing team.”

There are nine athletes under 25 years of age in the sailing team and equal mix of male and female.

There are three remaining classes not yet selected – Finn, Star and Women’s RS:X.  The Star class is yet to qualify an Olympic spot for New Zealand. The process will continue until the completion of class world championships in 2012.

The Olympic sailing course for London 2012 is situated at Weymouth where conditions are expected to favour the New Zealand team. “They’re well-balanced conditions not un-like the East Coast Bays of Auckland,” said Fanstone.

London 2012 will be the first Olympic Games where match racing will feature on the programme.

New Zealand has been represented in Olympic sailing since Melbourne in 1956 where Jack Cropp and Peter Mander won gold in the Sharpie class. A total of 16 Olympic medals (seven gold, four silver, five bronze) have been won by Kiwi yachtsmen and women.

With a total of 96 New Zealanders representing New Zealand in sailing at Olympic Games in the past, London will see New Zealand’s 100th Olympic athlete take to the water.

New Zealand Olympic Team Selections will continue throughout the build-up to the games with men’s and women’s Basketball expected to be the last possible team to qualify and be selected in July next year.

The London Olympic Games take place 27 July – 12 August 2012. The New Zealand team is expected to contain athletes representing New Zealand in approximately 17 sports.

- Ends –

For more information:

Ashley Abbott
Communications Manager
New Zealand Olympic Committee
021 552 021

Kristine Lederis
Communications Manager
Yachting New Zealand
021 871 301

About the selected athletes

Men’s single handed class- Laser
Andrew Murdoch 
Yacht Club: Kerikeri Cruising Club
Age: 29 years

Less than one week ago Andrew was crowned Bronze Medallist at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World championship, this is his third bronze medal at the Laser World Championships.

In 2007, he was the silver medallist at the Laser World Championships, more proof that he is one of the world’s best Men’s Laser Sailor. He competed in the 2008 Olympics in China, and finished just outside the medals with a fifth place finish.

Andrew is back again to hunt for his Olympic Medal, and it comes after a good run in. He left the 2011 Sail for Gold regatta with a silver medal, and followed that up with a fourth at the 2011 Weymouth and pre-Olympic event.

Women’s single handed class- Laser Radial
Sara Winther
Yacht Club: Takapuna Boating Club
Age: 30 years

A path for Sara Winther to become New Zealand’s top female Laser Radial sailor has cleared with Jo Aleh transitioning from the women’s single-hander into the double-handed event. A former Youth Worlds silver medallist, Winther has recently ramped up the training and returned some of her best results ever, and is showing the determination to keep improving.

Sara achieved a career best result at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championship in tenth; her previous best Laser Radial World Championship was a twelfth in 2009. This great result comes after a year of many visits to the podium, with highlights including the gold medal at the 2011 Princess Sofia regatta and Semaine Olympique Francaise.

Mens double handed class- 470
Paul Snow-Hansen
Yacht Club: Wakatere Boating Club
Age: 21 years
Jason Saunders
Yacht Club: Tauranga Yacht & Powerboat Club
Age: 21 years

Paul Snow-Hansen and Jason Saunders both have impressive independent records in their rise through the junior class ranks, and together have proven themselves as the top New Zealand pair in the Men’s 470 class.

Both men have a solid record at the World Championship level, recently finishing the Perth 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships in eighth overall. The helmsman of this team, Paul, was the silver medallist at both the 2004 Optimist World Championships and the 2007 ISAF Youth World Championships. Crewmember Jason has also excelled at the world championships level, fifth at the 2006 ISAF Youth World Championships in the 420 class, and eighth at the 2008 Laser Radial World Championship.

In 2011 alone, they together finished five of the ISAF World Cup events inside the top ten. Their steadily improving results are indicative of a bright future for these two young men.

Women’s double handed class- 470
Jo Aleh     
Yacht Club: Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
Age: 25 years
Olivia Powrie    
Yacht Club: Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
Age: 24 years

Jo Aleh, who finished seventh at the 2008 Olympic Games in the Laser Radial Class, now takes the helm of the 470 pairing with Olivia Powrie. Olivia is also an accomplished sailor in her own right; she had a stint in the Yngling during the previous cycle.

Jo and Olivia (known as Team Jolly) first combined in 2007 to compete in the Women’s 420 World Championships, and they won the title.  After taking the step up to the 470 class, these two women have been New Zealand’s top women’s 470 duo without contention.

Their campaign toward 2012 has included numerous podium finishes, most recently winning the bronze medal at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, and they were the silver medallists the year previous. Although they just missed out on a medal at the 2011 Weymouth and Portland pre-Olympic event with a fourth place overall, the gold medals from two other 2011 ISAF Sailing World Cup events in 2011 (Sail for Gold and Princess Sofia Regattas) made up for the difference.

Men’s skiff class- 49er
Peter Burling
Yacht Club: Tauranga Yacht Club
Age: 20 years
Blair Tuke
Yacht Club: Kerikeri Cruising Club
Age: 22 years

In 2008 Peter Burling became one of the youngest sailors to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games when he and Carl Evans, both 17 years old, competed in the 470 Class.

Burling sailed as crew then, and now takes the helm in the 49er skiff class with independently accomplished sailor, Blair Tuke on board. New Zealand hasn’t competed at the Olympics in the high speed 49er class since the Sydney 2000 Olympics; Burling and Tuke are looking to rectify this absence.

Together, they have just become silver medallists at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championship following a season of several other podium finishes at world cup events. Amongst other recent  highlights, Peter and Blair are the bronze medallists from the 2011 Weymouth and Portland pre-Olympic event, and 2010 North American 49er Champions.

Separately, Peter and Blair have won two world championships titles each, Peter in the 420 class during 2006 and 2007, and Blair was the 2006 Splash World Champion and 29er World Champion in 2009.

Women’s Match Racing
Stephanie Hazard
Yacht Club: Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Sandspit Yacht Club
Age 22 years
Jenna Hansen
Yacht Club: Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Whangarei Cruising Club
Age: 25 years
Susannah Pyatt
Yacht Club:Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Murrays Bay Sailing Club
Age: 21 years

In 2011, Stephanie Hazard, Jenna Hansen and Susannah Pyatt have been climbing their way up the International women’s match racing circuit.  Together, they were the ninth strongest team at the Perth 2011 ISAF World Sailing Championships.  

This top result follows to strong lead up events, winning the NZL Sailing Team Womens Match Racing Championships and then leaving the Busan Women’s Match Cup in Korea with a silver medal.

Stephanie Hazard (helm) and Jenna Hansen (mainsheet) have come through the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron Youth Training Programme, while Susannah Pyatt (bow) comes from a stronger dinghy background from Auckland’s North Shore. Earlier this year they spent five months competing in a series of events throughout Europe and this resulted in an ISAF ranking of fifteenth best womens match racing team in the world.

Anything may be possible for this team as they continue to build on increasingly strong performances into 2012.

Men's Windsurfing RS:X
Jon-Paul Tobin
Yacht Club: Takapuna Boating Club
Age: 34

Jon Paul has been consistently performing during this campaign toward 2012, most recently finishing the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships in fifth place overall.   His silver medal finish at the Sail for Gold regatta is what earned him the opportunity to attend the pre-Olympic event at Weymouth earlier this year, where he in fourth.

Based on current form, JP is the top Men’s RS:X sailor in New Zealand. He is coached by Aaron McIntosh, who is also a past New Zealand Olympian in board sailing, and is training partner of Dorian van Rijsselberghe who is the current RS:X World Champion. He is a determined and dedicated athlete that has been campaigning toward the Olympics for multiple cycles, and has now finally gained selection over his long time rival Tom Ashley.